Tuesday marked the 32nd anniversary of China’s oppressive one-child policy.

The population control rule, established on September 25, 1980, has resulted in almost 40 million “missing” women and some of the most egregious human rights violations in recent history.

As recent, gruesome accounts from the communist country have illustrated, enforcement of the policy often comes in the form of coerced abortion and involuntary sterilizations. Just this past summer, the world was forced to confront the gruesome image of Feng Jianmei lying next to her dead child, reportedly killed after a forced abortion at seven months because Jianmei and her husband were unable to pay the hefty fine for having an unauthorized child.

Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, catalogues just a few of the recent incidents of intimidation, coerced abortion, and their painful consequences under the policy in an open letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao:

The coercive enforcement of China’s cruel and barbaric One Child Policy causes more violence towards women and girls than any other official policy on earth. It is China’s war against women and girls. Women are forcibly aborted up to the ninth month of pregnancy. Forced abortion is not a choice. It is systematic, institutionalized violence against women, official government rape; and it continues to this day.

The one-child policy, coupled with a cultural preference for males, has helped in tipping the country’s demographics toward a dangerous and unsustainable gender imbalance. Bucking nature’s dictated sex ratio of 100 girls for every 105 boys, China’s average birth ratio is now 100 girls for every 118 boys—with some provinces reporting skewed gender balances as high as 130 boys for every 100 girls.

Negative consequences of this intentional dearth of females are inevitable. Child kidnapping and bride trafficking are already linked to the decreased number of girls. And as Heritage has previously explained, “Increased crime, substance abuse, violence against women, and gang activity, researchers predict, will likely mar China’s future as millions of young Chinese men are demographically prohibited from settling down into the socializing institution of marriage.”

The state-sanctioned oppression embodied in the enforcement of the one-child policy extends its inherent disregard for human rights to areas beyond government family planning clinics. As the world witnessed this past spring in the dramatic escape of forced-abortion opponent Chen Guangcheng, any resistance to the atrocities of the one-child policy are swiftly and mercilessly quashed.

The resulting fear and coercion have proven useful to Communist Chinese officials wishing to keep the billion-person nation under strict government control. As Littlejohn explained at the Victims of Communism memorial earlier this year:

The Chinese Communist Party wields forced abortion as an instrument of terror to keep its people down. The infrastructure of population control coercion can be turned in any direction, to crush dissent.… The true spirit of Communism is most clearly seen in the faces of the Chinese population control police as they drag women away, beat them, strap them down to tables, and force them to abort babies that they want, up to the ninth month of pregnancy.

The United States and other international leaders who claim to support individual freedom and human dignity should demand an end to the coercive population control policies that strip women and men of fundamental rights and prohibit China from becoming a truly free and flourishing society.